CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The state's branch of the American Federation of Teachers asked a judge for an injunction in Cabell Circuit Court Friday, demanding Marshall University President Stephen Kopp allow professors access to budget information without imposing massive fees.
Since Kopp combined the money in almost every Marshall account in April, two professors have made Freedom of Information Act requests to Kopp asking for financial data from the past five years. The professors were told the information would cost them $54,296 to print and compile.
"The respondent's request of an exorbitant fee is unrealistic and is designed to frustrate the intent of the FOIA Act especially when a more inexpensive method, namely inspection, is available," states Friday's petition, filed by Charleston attorney Mark Carbone.
Carbone is representing AFT-West Virginia; its president, Christine Campbell; and members Dallas Brozik and James Sottile, the Marshall professors who have attempted to get the budget information from school administration.
Brozik and Sottile asked for detailed information regarding the university budget after Kopp made the abrupt move in April to sweep almost all of the school's departmental accounts -- totaling nearly $10 million -- into a central holding account overnight for review. The move outraged faculty who were not informed of the decision, which led them to take a vote of no confidence in Kopp on May 1.
The two professors made several attempts to access the information after Marshall's general counsel advised them that their requests were not specific enough. In addition to the large fees, the professors were also told that the specific requests didn't exist and that the data was not available in electronic form.
Marshall's responses violate state FOIA laws, according to the petition, which say "every person has the right to inspect or copy any public record of a public body in the state."
Both Brozik and Sottile requested the opportunity to inspect the records themselves, according to the petition.
In response, Marshall officials said about $10,000 of the cost would be for the amount of time it takes to collect and organize the documents. That included professional time to print, redact and supervise the operation, in addition to temporary time to assemble the documents, according to emails.